Thursday, May 12, 2011

Day 355: Alternative Medicine

Acupuncture was something that I'd wanted to try since I started Project 29 to 30. Do I feel like I've been saying that a lot lately. I definitely put a lot of things off until the very end.

Tippr (another daily deal email like Groupon that I'd signed up for) was offering a session at Longevity Health Care at half the price. So I bought it, and headed there on Day 355 to make acupuncture the thing I'd never done before.

When I think about acupuncture (which isn't that often), I always think about Charlotte from Sex and the City getting the treatments in hopes it would increase her chances of getting pregnant. The ancient Chinese practice of inserting tiny sterilized needles at certain points on the body to help the body mend itself is used by people all over the world to help manage pain, quit smoking, lose weight.

I consulted a lot of websites before Day 355 so I would know what to expect. Each website had varying historical perspectives on acupuncture and its benefits; there were also plenty of websites doubting the practice altogether. Regardless of what side of the acupuncture argument these sites fell on, all agreed that even doctors couldn't explain how it works or prove that it does.

One of these websites said that the Eastern medicine believes that the body is made up of energy and that acupuncture points on the body serve as conduits of that energy. I don't know about that last part, but evident in my behavior on Day 355, I absolutely agree with Eastern medicine.

I was a hot mess of energy that day. Really I'm a hot mess of energy most days, but I specifically remember this day especially.

I arrived at the appointment the way I do for most things: like a tornado. I squealed into the parking lot on two wheels, completely panicked, crazy. I left my house early because I had no idea where I was going, and despite a pretty good sense of direction, I still got lost. I realized on the way that I printed out the Tippr certificate, but left it in another purse. Complete disaster.

In all my research about acupuncture, I never read that it could be used to heal "insanity" or "forgetfulness" but I immediately hoped that it might.

I busted through the office doors and told the front desk who I was. Everyone was very friendly and I was able to calm down and fill out the paperwork they provided. Not long after I arrived, a nice woman came from one of the back rooms and introduced herself; then she led me through a winding hallway of a structure that reminded me of a house turned business turned hippie doctor's office. I can't remember if there were tapestries on the walls, but I wouldn't have been surprised if there were.

We walked into a room that resembled a spa only in the fact that it had a massage table in the center of it. Unlike the peaceful, candlelit, Eucalyptus smelling spas I'd been in in the past, this one was like an office that just so happened to have a bed in the center of it. As if trying to exude a sense of medical authority, the acupuncturist sat at a desk that was covered with paperwork; I sat in the chair and we discussed why I was there. I was friendly, telling her how I'd always wanted to try acupuncture. She seemed excited until I told her that only when the Tippr deal presented itself did I decide to go for it.

Her face fell, as if she had high hopes that I would be a serious new client, and after telling her I bought this session with a coupon, those hopes were now dashed. I wanted to tell her that I don't have that much disposable income just lying around to explore alternative medicines with, and also if I did make acupuncture a regular thing, I'd probably choose a place closer to my house. She seemed sad, though, so I kept all of that to myself.

She asked me if I was experiencing any pain that I wanted her to focus on. I really wasn't, not serious pain anyway, just mild back tension from running and sitting in front of a computer all day. She nodded and exited the room long enough for me to lie down, on my back, on the massage table.

Not until the acupuncturist came back into the room did it occur to me that I was about to get pricked with needles all over my body. I'm not terribly needle-phobic, and I knew it wouldn't be worse than giving blood, which I've done before, but I was slightly anxious that I wasn't sure if it would hurt or not.

My fears quickly subsided when she began inserting the needles into my hands and feet, ears and face, and it didn't hurt. Just a slight prick that strangely did, albeit for a short time, energize me in a strange way. Kind of like that rush that you get when you quickly rip a band-aid off your skin.

Once she had strategically placed all of the needles, she exited the room, turning on some soothing music as she went. So there I was, on a comfortable massage table with nothing to do but clear my head and chill out. No more traffic, no more getting lost or forgetting coupons. Just peace.

Only when I would move my hand slightly did I become aware that I had needles sticking out of it. Not in a painful way, but still strange.

When people later asked me if acupuncture hurt, I said, with certainty, "No."

When they asked me if acupuncture was relaxing, I said, "Yes," knowing full well that the soothing music and massage table and mid-morning nap had every bit to do with that.

When they asked me if I could tell a difference in my back, my answer was less certain. I felt great that day. But I'm not entirely convinced it was because of the acupuncture. I'm not entirely convinced that it wasn't because of the acupuncture either.

When she came back in thirty minutes later to remove the needles, she told me to flip over on the table; I just assumed that she'd be hitting more acupuncture pressure points on my back. Will I ever learn? Never assume anything when trying new things.

Once I was comfortable lying on my stomach, she said she was going to do some Chinese cupping on my back.

"Ok," I said enthusiastically, but having absolutely no idea what she was talking about. She was sweet and I liked her, so I had no reason to doubt what she was doing wasn't safe and pain-free.

I lifted my head up to get a view of the "cups" that she heated up and adhered to my back like little suctions. They looked like glass doorknobs.

Just like acupuncture, cupping is all about "opening up the meridians to let energy flow through," (what?) and also claims to pull toxins out of the body. Really, though, it just felt like there were little vacuums on my back.

She left the room again and let the cups do their job; I was left to relax with more music (and cups). But this time I was less relaxed because as the cups started to lose suction, I was worried that they were going to crash to the ground and break. One actually did fall, but thankfully it just rolled across the carpeted floor. Thankfully the acupuncturist/cupper returned to remove the cups before anymore fell.

The next day (which I'll get to on Day 356), I was hanging out with my friend Andrew. I told him about Day 355 and gave a detailed description of what an acupuncture session really feels like, and how Chinese cupping works.

"Oh, that's what that is," Andrew exclaimed, as I was telling him.

"What are you talking about," I said, feeling and looking confused.

"The bruises on your back."

"Bruises? What bruises?"

I demanded that he take a picture so I could see what he was talking about, and I couldn't believe it. I don't know why it never occurred to me that huge enormous heated glass suction cups would probably leave a mark, but when I looked at the picture, it looked like I had enormous hickies all over my back. I'd never had a hickie before, much less more than one, or one this size. The thought delighted me and I'd never felt better. I'm not really sure if acupuncture or cupping did for me on the inside, but I'd say my energy was lifted and I was feeling quite positive.

Thank you, Chinese medicine.